- The Historia Ierosolimitana of Baldric of Bourgueil ed. by Steven Biddlecombe
It is always good to see the publication of a long-neglected primary source. To those of the early-twelfth century, the chronicle of Baldric of Bourgueil (also known to modern scholars as Baldric or Baudrey of Dol) was one of the better-known accounts of the First Crusade, although not as widely read as that by Robert the Monk. Yet Baldric’s Historia has not been republished since 1879, and that edition was based on only seven of the twenty-four known manuscripts. This new edition is a product of a UK Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded project on the historical narratives of the First Crusade led by Marcus Bull and is based on twenty manuscripts. At last Baldric’s work is available to scholars and students in a modern edition with full editorial apparatus and index.
Steven Biddlecombe has not only edited Baldric’s Historia to meet modern standards of scholarship but has also provided a detailed analytical introduction to the text and its author. He introduces readers to Baldric as a man as well as an author, setting out his career trajectory as prior, abbot of Bourgueil, and bishop of Dol (from 1108). He also considers Baldric’s poetry before going on to discuss the Historia in detail: the books that informed Baldric’s writing, his use of the anonymous Gesta Francorum, his interpretation of the First Crusade, and his presentation of it to his readership. The introduction also explores the reception of Baldric’s work by his contemporaries, its uses by later writers, and the earlier printed editions. [End Page 619]
Biddlecombe shows that Baldric was not only an historian of recent events but also an author in his own right who built on the Gesta Francorum to create a sophisticated and lively narrative, creating personalities around the Gesta’s brief descriptions. In particular, Baldric developed Bohemond of Antioch as a flawed hero, depicting Bohemond’s trickery and ambition to make him a more credible, interesting personality.
Discussing the date of Baldric’s work, Biddlecombe concludes that it was probably composed before Bohemond of Antioch came to France in 1106 to drum up support for a new crusade. He argues for two stages of composition: one version of the text produced in 1105, when Baldric was at Bourgueil, and then another after he became bishop of Dol, when he added some details and made some corrections. There are, then, two manuscript traditions for the text; the edition published in 1879 in volume 4 of the Recueil des historiens des croisades: historiens occidentaux was based on the 1107 version, whereas Biddlecombe’s new edition is based on the 1105 version. The 1879 edition “corrected” Baldric’s Latin to mirror classical Latin, introduced divisions, and imposed a sentence structure and punctuation. In contrast, Biddlecombe has set out to produce an edition that is representative of the manuscript tradition, as modern scholars expect. His edition is prefaced by a description of each of the surviving manuscripts and supported by full editorial apparatus. It is thus a valuable source for medieval Latin in early-twelfth-century France as well as a record of how contemporaries interpreted the First Crusade.
This new edition will be invaluable both to scholars of the First Crusade, of its reception, and of the development of the idea of crusade, as well as to students of medieval Latin literature. Students will demand a translation—but that is work for the future.